The New York Times Magazine published a finely written and deeply reported cover feature about Daniels and his film by Lynn Hirschberg. I came away with a fresh appreciation for the bravery that can be required to get a story told -- not only in cobbling together his projects' financing, making unlikely casting calls and convincing stars to take a gamble, but in the choice of story.
Just like Daniels' previous films, Precious was and is a hard sell. It's the painful account of a 350-pound illiterate 16-year-old who is pregnant for the second time by her father, horribly abused by her mother and H.I.V. positive. Even though it is based on a published novel, you can be sure Daniels struggled to find backers. It helps, of course, that he's tackled tough subjects before: He produced Monster's Ball,about bigotry and interracial love in the South, and The Woodsman, about a convicted pedophile played by Kevin Bacon. It help that Halle Berry won an Oscar for Monster's Ball.
But I know that whatever credibility his previous successes gave him, it doesn't get any easier. What may matter most is that he's an outsider -- a real one, not a fake Hollywood one like Brad Pitt, as Helen Mirren tells Hirschberg -- and he knows what the bottom looks like. (Daniels, who grew up in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood, is gay, African-American, the son of a policeman and a victim of his abuse.)
That means that Daniels is willing to go places that most other filmmakers won't. That takes life experience and self-confidence, but most of all it takes guts.
I don't know if the audiences will follow when it opens Nov. 6, but I consider myself well-advised by Daniels' lead: Be brave.